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Knesset approves immunity for ex-Likud minister accused of fraud

Social Affairs and Social Services Minister Haim Katz
MK and former Israeli Social Affairs and Social Services Minister, Haim Katz [El faro de Israel/Facebook]

The Knesset House Committee voted Tuesday to approve MK Haim Katz's request for "parliamentary immunity from prosecution", reported Haaretz. The request now goes to the full Knesset for a vote.

Katz "is accused of fraud and breach of trust for promoting a 2010 bill that would have benefitted him", and for allegedly misleading the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee, which he chaired at the time, "as well as the Ethics Committee about his possible conflict of interest".

The bill in question "gives priority for repayment to those holding bonds in an insolvent company over the controlling shareholders in the company", described Haaretz.

"Katz, his financial adviser Moti Ben Ari, and the Equitel Group, which Ben Ari advised, held bonds in several companies experiencing difficulties. Passing the bill would have given all three parties a considerable advantage over the controlling shareholders in these companies."

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Thus, according to the indictment, "Katz promoted the bill at Ben Ari's request, and even brought him to a Labor, Welfare and Health Committee hearing on the bill as an independent expert, without revealing their relationship," Haaretz added.

Katz told the committee he was asking for immunity "because the process is the punishment", adding: "I'm 72 and I want to continue contributing to the system. A trial will take three years and there's no reason to give me this punishment."

"The law was initiated by me," he said. "There was no intention to have it apply retroactively."

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The House Committee's legal adviser, Arbel Astrachan, had said that "the test used to help gauge conflict of interest is the size of the group that could benefit from the legislation."

"If a MK makes a decision that will influence a very large group of people, residents of the north for example, it wouldn't be considered a conflict of interest [even if he also benefits] The smaller the group, the more it tends toward conflict of interest."

Katz's lawyer, Navit Negev, argued that Katz did not profit from the legislation. "It's no coincidence that the indictment reads that he 'could have profited'," she said. "It's 10 years since the law was passed. Believe me the prosecution would have known how to quantify something like that."

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